Sep 27, 2010

Gutter Science: Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops

I still can't overcome my disbelief. Such 'distinguished' scientific bodies, and such a shoddy report. I have always said there is good science, there is bad science but this report transgresses all earlier known brackets, and I have no hesitation in saying that the Inter-Academy Report on GM crops (see the pdf copy of the report here: http://bit.ly/cQbyCI) does not even qualify to be put in the category of bad science.

It is Gutter Science.

The Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops -- prepared by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, National Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences -- and submitted in September 2010 to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, is no better than the introductory write-ups any graduate student of biotechnology would come out with. In fact, I have a collection of a large number of papers/analysis written by graduate and post-graduate students who seek my comments/views that I would rate much higher than the Inter-Academy report.

The Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops is in fact a disgrace to Indian science. That Indian science was on a downhill path was never in question, but that it had already slipped into a cesspool is a revelation. I wish the presidents of the six Indian Academies had at least read the 19-page report prepared by the Minister for Environment & Forests Jairam Ramesh (and which is available on the website of the ministry) at the time of announcing the moratorium on Bt Brinjal early this year, and they would have known what academic excellence means.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had imposed a moratorium on Bt brinjal’s release until there is widespread scientific consensus on its environmental and biosafety aspects. The Inter-Academy report failes to answer any of the concerns/questions that Jairam Ramesh had raised in his paper.

The Inter-Academy report therefore is not a scientific inquiry, but a cheap public relation exercise on behalf of the GM industry. This is a scientific form of corruption, and has to be condemned in as strong words as possible.

You have probably read in newspapers how the key parts of the report -- which supports genetically modified (GM) Bt brinjal’s commercial release -- have been plagiarized from a government newsletter. According to a news report entitled 'Experts Admit GM brinjal Report Faulty' in The Telegraph (Sept 27, 2010): "Six Indian science academies had earlier this week approved the limited release of GM brinjal for cultivation in a joint report that contained 60 lines of plagiarised text, a near verbatim reproduction of an article in a biotechnology advocacy newsletter which itself had lines extracted from an industry-supported publication.

"This is unfortunate — we are devastated. This should not have happened,” said M. Vijayan, the president of the Indian National Science Academy, and a senior faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. [See the news report at http://bit.ly/9K6D2l]
 
The cheat slur reminds me of an almost similar incident that disgraced Indian judiciary a few months back. According to a news report: "In a major embarrassment for the Andhra Pradesh judiciary, five judges were caught cheating while writing the LLM ( Master of Law) examination for which they were promptly suspended by the High Court. One of the judges was found copying from a law book hidden under his answer sheet. Written slips and pages torn from textbooks were seized from other judges."
 
The Andhra Pradesh High Court was at least quick in suspending the judges who were caught cheating. Every time there is a major train accident or an aircrash, we have often seen the minister concerned resigning taking moral responsibility. When politicians can be held responsible for lapses, scientists too should be held accountable when caught with their pants down. Shouldn't the Ministry of Science & Technology therefore sack the six presidents:

-- Dr M Vijayan, Indian National Science Academy.
-- Dr A K Sood, Indian Academy of Sciences.
-- Dr P S Goel, Indian National Academy of Engineering.
-- Dr Mangala Rai, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
-- Dr K K Talwar, National Academy of Medical Sciences.
-- Dr Asis Datta, National Academy of Sciences.

The report ends with two quotations, and this sums up the inherent but brazen bias the Science Acadmies had. The first quote is from a joint statement of six major Academies of the world: “GM technology, coupled with important developments in other areas, should be used to increase the production of main food staples, improve the efficiency of production, reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, and provide access to food for small-scale farmers.” –the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences, In Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture (2000), Document made available by the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi.

If the Indian science academies have to merely endorse what the foreign academies have done than what is the need to have this exercise in the first place. In any case, if you read what the six major academies across the world have said, it becomes crystal clear that science has simply gone into the lap of the industry.

I don't know why the Inter-Academy report fails to even take into consideration another international report, which has been officially endorsed by India. I am talking of the report of the three-year international collaborative effort (2005-07) that culminated in the form of a report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which clearly states that 'business as usual' is not the way forward. The answer is simple. The people and environment-friendly IAASTD report does not promote the commercial interest of the agribusiness companies.

The second quotation is from Norman Borlaug. "The affluent nations can afford to adopt elitist positions and pay more for food produced by the so-called natural methods; the 1 billion chronically poor and hungry people of this world cannot. New technology will be their salvation, freeing them from obsolete, low-yielding, and more costly production technology.” Dr. Norman E. Borlaug (Nobel Prize Laureate for Peace 1970), Plant Physiology (2000). 124, 487-490.

The report therefore is on the expected  lines. This only reinforces what we knew all along. Indian scientists are only capable of copy and paste.

In any case, when these academies were entrusted to come out with a report on GM crops, especially in the context of the public groundswell against genetic contamination of food crops, it should have been known that all these academies are merely letter-head organisations.

These are in reality 'retiring-room' for the retired scientists, most of whom happen to be the former head of organisations which are primarily responsible for doing the damage in the first instance. Take the case of the National Acedemy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS). It is headed by a former Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the umbrella organisation that is primarily responsible for the terrible agrarian distress and cannot wash its hands off the spate of farmer suicides that dot the countryside.

The other national academies are no different. In fact, all these scientific bodies are promoting public-private partnership (PPP) and therefore cannot be expected to stand up against the commercial interests of the biotechnology companies. It will be interesting to know the names of the scientists who contributed to the report, and the research projects they have undertaken in the past along with the funding support.

Meanwhile, Dr M Vijayan, INSA president has been quoted in The Telegraph as saying: "The academies will now examine the report again, introduce references for all text extracted from earlier publications, and release the names of all the scientists who contributed to the report. 'But, he said, the main recommendations are unlikely to change.' This should not be allowed since the report is simply a compilation of what suits the vested interests of these bodies.

I suggest the following:

-- Like the judges caught cheating, the presidents of the six academies should be first removed.

-- There is an urgent need to revamp the science academies. All retired scientists should be removed, and these science academies should include eminent citizens from different walks of life. 

-- There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Jairam Ramesh's paper that resulted in the moratorium on Bt brinjal needs to be examined, and all public fears and concerns need to be addressed point-by-point.

Only gutter science will like to bypass social and environmental concerns.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not just in pushing GMOs that science has been so grossly corrupted. Warnings on corruption of medical science and its impact are everywhere now. The pharmaceutical/biotech industry is at the center of both.

The Corrupt Alliance of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industry ...
Aug 16, 2010 ... The Corrupt Alliance of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industry ..... is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry.” ...
www.cchrint.org › CCHR Issues
Pharma Ties at Harvard Medical School - ProPublicaMar 3, 2009 ... Harvard recently earned an F from the American Medical Student ... class” - teachers are influenced by pharma money and then their students. ...
www.propublica.org/.../pharma-ties-at-harvard-medical-school

[PDF] Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
help curb corruption in the pharmaceutical industries – both legal and counterfeit – ......Physicians encounter corruption in health care at all levels: in ...
www.bu.edu/actforhealth/.../Part1_5_corruptioninpharmasector.pdf

Corruption: "We must stop this cancer before it is too late ...
Apr 30, 2010 ... He warns us that “this mentality is reaching out into almost every corner of.... We call on the government at all levels to find its political will to act ... Pharmacompanies continue to bribe physicians in India ...
www.worldcarecouncil.org/.../corruption-we-must-stop-cancer-it-too-late

The Pharmaceutical "Business with Disease" | The Dr. Rath Health ...
The Health Organization Founded by Dr. Rath is Unique in the World: All the Profits it .... US probes corruption in big pharma. The US Department of Justice is scrutinising ... FDAwarns of brain problem with Glaxo seizure drug ..... Comment: At both national and international levels, the tentacles of drug company ...
www4.dr-rath-foundation.org/.../pharmaceutical.../index.htm

Report condemns swine flu experts' ties to big pharma | World news ...
Jun 4, 2010 ... Scientists who drew up the key World Health Organisation guidelines ... "The tentacles of drug company influence are in all levels in the ..... The fact that some WHO scientists might have been a bit corrupt won't stop ...
www.guardian.co.uk/business/.../swine-flu-experts-big-pharmaceutical

WHO issues warning about corruption of pharmaceutical industry
Apr 30, 2010 ... (NaturalNews) The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a fact... " Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the ... Thiscorruption can have serious consequences, the WHO warns. ...
www.naturalnews.com/028686_Big_Pharma_corruption.html

Anonymous
USA

Anonymous said...

contd.....

In addition to hundreds of thousands of people dying every year from prescription drugs, and the drug companies pushing S 510 and S 3767 to remove access to safe and crucual nutritional supplements, there is what they are doing with vaccines.

There things are criminal.

The CDC, which grossly exaggerated swine flu cases and blocked an investigation into just that, maybe be falsifying data on the thousands of miscarriages from last year's H1N1 vaccine (and what is the death toll if I personally know of three healthy people who died right after taking it?) and already knows this year's vaccines are causing narcolepsy and a huge number of febrile seizures but are still urging them on everyone over 6 months of age. They contain nanoparticles which makes them experimental, while the government said they were (typical flu vaccines) to skip testing them. This year they mixed seasonal flu vaccines with H1N1 though a Canadian study last year showed those who'd had the flu vaccine and then got the H1N1 had a greater risk of becoming ill. And now the FDA has a dangerous new rule allowing manufacturers to change or add any ingredient such as squalene with the approval of only one person at the FDA and no testing. And the last pandemic was proven phony by the EU parliament and the WHO itself has been exposed by the BMJ, and health ministers raised large warnings abut the vaccines. Yet we are nonsensically still under the pandemic here (until 2012) and it comes with military and pandemic laws in each state pushed by Bush include making them mandatory if the government says so.

How does one ignore that these companies once experimented on and killed people with vaccines at Auschwitz and then their scientists were brought to the US by the Bushes who then undermined the science agencies here? Or that they lie about their products, criminally charged for doing so? Or that Bush had terrorism laws put in place to be able to mandate them, no exemptions.

The H1N1 vaccines are blatantly dangerous. Meanwhile, they remove controls over the manufacturers and all safeguards despite what Baxter did last year that could have killed millions. (And Baxter was one of the companies running Auschwitz and experimenting on and killing people with vaccines. With all that experimenting, have they just not figured out how to make safe ones?)

And now there is the idea being floated that Obama should shut down the internet in "an emergency." So people can't get out the truth about the disease and warn each other about the vaccines as they did last year?

Emergency? Obama declared an H1N1 emergency last year two days after CBS had exposed the pandemic as a fraud. We're still under it. It removed all requirements for the vaccine companies to test the vaccines.

The medical community needs to pause from working so hard and take a moment to see the multiple ways things are "off" in all this and the danger even for their own famiies, and begin letting each other know and speaking up, just as scientists are now doing in India since their science agencies have hit the skids.

Anonymous
USA

Anonymous said...

Looking through the report - very poor presentation and very poor quality!

At least one good thing ... Jairam now has a document that benchmarks the very low quality and low caliber of the President's of the Indian Academies!!

Madan Thangavelu
UK

Hungry said...

How can Jairam Ramesh or, the anti-GM lobbyists term the incidence as plagiarism, hope before coming to any conclusion over the paid hues & cries, he has to to take the whole thing into totality. As the article in question was published in Biotech News, Dec 2010 (Bt Brinjal- a pioneering push) by Dr P Ananda Kumar, PD- NRCB and being a fellow of NAAS, he was too invited to express his views but the only contribution from his side was the historial account and personal factfindings about the GM crops and Bt Brinjal.
For the kind attn. of Mr Ramesh, only Scientific article needs citation and references to be quoted and not all the reports and publication report and in this case when the contributer are the very same person. On the other, hand the Academy has to clearly acknowledge Dr Kumar's contribution, to avoid such chances been given to the news mongers and anti-lobbysists.

Why the man, DEVINDER is so anti-GM???